Officers unite in charge to halt airport chaos

National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda has asked immigration officers to help high-ranking police officers prevent a recurrence of the chaos at Don Mueang airport last week, a source says.

An Immigration Bureau source said Pol Gen Chakthip had instructed immigration officers to return to their desks within two weeks.

In a report to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, the police chief claims the shortage of personnel to process immigration at the airports is partly because some are borrowed to work for phu yai (high-ranking officers) at other police offices, the source said.

"They are being recalled to service the people and make sure the immigration counters are open and ready to work. These officers are away because they are asked to help phu yai," the source said.

Most of the immigration officers are female staff who have good communication skills and English proficiency, which are much-sought qualifications by senior police officers.

"If this can't solve the problem, help from the air force may be needed," the source added, referring to Gen Prayut's order for the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) to help expedite immigration processes to reduce waiting times at airports.

The prime minister has instructed the Immigration Bureau to open all counters for service and, in cases of a shortage of staff, RTAF officers would be brought in to help to avoid cases of hours-long waits for foreigners entering the country.

On Friday Immigration Bureau commissioner Nathathorn Prousoontorn said he had ordered 200 immigration officers at other border checkpoints to help at three airports -- Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and Phuket -- as a relief measure.

Mr Nathathorn said the airports had witnessed an unusually high number of passengers. Last Saturday visitors waited for four hours to be processed.

Authorities said only 21 regular flights were scheduled to land between midnight and 5am every day, but Don Mueang airport was overloaded with four extra flights from Singapore (two), Hong Kong and mainland China.

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